Ernst & Young rebrand shares a name with racy magazine: some more new-name disasters

Accounting firm Ernst & Young has a new name that’s causing it a spot of bother.

From July, the global firm rebranded itself to simple ‘EY’, which is rather similar to the name of racy Spanish magazine EY!, famous for its spreads of naked male models in alluring poses.

Given this, in today’s Financial Review, Melbourne University marketing professor Mark Ritson reckons the rebrand is “a definite balls-up”.

“It’s marketing 101: you check who has the rights to the name, whether it means something rude in a foreign language and who owns the digital personality. People assume when smart companies do something stupid like this that it’s deliberate, but in most cases companies really are this stupid. They are clearly not doing their due diligence.”

Now, Ritson probably knows better than your correspondent, but I think it’s hard not to feel for EY. The initials have been their shorthand name for yonks. And it’s just plain hard to come up with an interesting name that no one’s ever used before.

And they’re far from the first people to rebrand to something silly. Here are three corporate rebrands that went wrong, showing EY is in fine company:

Kraft rebrands to Modelez – another ‘balls-up moment’

Last year, cracker giant Kraft decided its name didn’t quite cut it anymore, and went on a four-month crusade for an alternative.

It eventually settled on ‘Mondelez’, which if you mispronounce slightly sounds like the Russian word for ‘oral sex’.

Impervious to the critics (or hecklers), Kraft steamed ahead with the rebrand regardless.

iSnack 2.0 anyone?

It wasn’t the first time brand names made Kraft answer uncomfortable questions.

In 2009, it hosted a competition to rename Vegemite. The winner – iSnack 2.0.

The new name didn’t exactly gel with fans, and the company dropped it a few weeks later.

PwC tries on ‘Monday’ for size

In 2002, another big-four accountancy, PricewaterhouseCoopers, paid an ad agency $US110 million to come up with a new name. The one they got was ‘Monday’, which, when announced to howls of derision, was dropped within days. The company eventually went with the simpler, already used ‘PwC’ instead.

Of course, here we are still talking about these companies years after their rebrand. Which begs the question: Is the millions in free publicity you get for a bad rename worth it in the end?

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